Understanding residential development site pathways in post-global financial crisis (GFC) Scotland

The interfaces between the land market, planning system and new housing supply have been studied both sporadically and imperfectly since the late 1970s in the UK, and other countries in the Global North. Yet, the fact that we still have a poor understanding of the complexities of these markets, systems and processes is probably best demonstrated by the limited success of planning reforms in the immediate post-Barker Review (2004) period in the UK.

Pre-global financial crisis, the findings of detailed qualitative studies offered some fascinating insights into the British housing development industry, but the face of the housing development industry has changed markedly in the years since the global financial crisis. The research evidence base has not kept pace, and relatively little is known about how land, construction and housing market behaviours have changed in the interim. This observation applies both to the structure and economics of the housebuilding industry itself, and the efficiency and operation of the planning system itself.

To address the gap in knowledge this project will seek to understand the journeys that development sites take through the planning system, following similar methods to those adopted by qualitative and institutional work undertaken in the 1980s and 1990s. The specific research questions to be pursued include:

  • What are the principal routes through which sites are identified as suitable for development and enter the planning process?
  • For sites initially identified by developers rather than the planning system, how far in advance of development does this happen, and how does it affect outcomes including the amount, size, type and quality of housing procured?
  • What typology of development sites is appropriate to describe the majority and variety of sites passing through the development system?
  • Distinguishing between the categories of site as defined above, what are the principal determinants of delay in the development process?

Team: Professor Chris Leishman (Co-Investigator), DrĀ Gareth James (Knowledge Exchange), plus external partners Homes for Scotland

Timeline: August 2019 – August 2021

Theme: Markets